7 August 2003


GAZA, 6 August, (UNRWA) -- Peter Hansen, Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), today warmly welcomed the news that the United States will pledge up to $26 million to the Agency’s sixth emergency appeal for the occupied Palestinian territory.  The current appeal covers the six-month period to the end of December, 2003.

The United States contribution, approved by President George W. Bush, is the largest single donation by any government to the Agency’s emergency appeals since their launch, in October 2000, at the start of the intifada.  Last year, the UAE Red Crescent, a non-governmental organization, provided $27 million, to help rebuild the destroyed centre of the Jenin Camp.

Coming on top of $15 million provided earlier in the year, this new United States pledge brings the funds provided by the United States to the UNRWA for its emergency programs to over $107 million since October 2000 -- 36 per cent of the total received.

“I am delighted by this strong vote of confidence in the Agency from the Bush Administration”, said Mr. Hansen.  “We have the systems in place to aid poor and hungry Palestinian refugees; we can deliver relief aid in a cost-effective and targeted fashion; and we know who are the really needy.  What we have been lacking this year has been the money to do our job properly”.

Under-funding of its emergency appeals -- supporting some 1.2 million people -- is a growing concern for the Agency.  In the first half of the year, donors pledged $41.3 million, barely 43 per cent of the amount needed to preserve vital programs in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in the areas of food aid, shelter repair and reconstruction, temporary job creation, remedial health and education, and psychosocial support, among others.

Until now, prospects for the current period were much worse.  Only $2.5 million in firm pledges had been received, compared with the $102.9 million required.  Painful cuts have already been made in some programs, resulting in mass lay-offs and reductions in food distribution rounds, and further cutbacks remain a real likelihood, unless substantial new pledges are confirmed over the next two months.

So far this year, the United States has provided the UNRWA with $129 million in funds for its regular budget activities, special projects, and the emergency programs. This makes it, by far, the largest donor to the Agency.

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